A little taster of Biteback's new release We Ate All the Pies

  • August 27, 2010 12:49
  • Katy Scholes

To whet your appetite, here's a little taster of our new book We Ate All the Pies by football-mad John Nicholson. (Sorry for the food puns, couldn't help ourselves!)

"Pies have become a legendary football ritual that many feel obliged, compelled or delighted to indulge in. Recently, it was claimed on the BBC news website that one in three people who went to watch Scottish football had a pie on match day. That’d be over 20,000 just at Celtic Park! A volume of pies so huge it would need to be transported in the sort of big trucks normally reserved for Emerson, Lake and Palmer in their seventies pomp.

The first pie I ever ate at Ayresome Park was memorable. It was a freezing cold afternoon in 1974 – it always seemed to be freezing at the Boro; I don’t recall one warm day in the whole of the 1970s. As I bit into it, a belch of hot air was released in a steamy cloud into the smog-filled grey afternoon. It smelled fantastically savoury and meaty but it tasted somewhat different. First, the filling was bouncy, as though partly comprised of rubber bands. This is because it was padded out with gristle: eyes, lungs and arseholes. The flavour was peculiarly tangy and unlike anything I had ever tasted previously. It was salty but oddly perfumed. Looking back, this was probably because it was past its sell-by date – not that such a thing as a sell-by date existed back then. But I was used to vaguely unpleasant food at home so I ate it all.

It left me with a sore throat! I’m no doctor but I’m sure a pie shouldn’t make your throat sore. God knows what was in that thing but whatever it was it wasn’t in me long as it had exited out of my arse at speed a couple of hours later. <!--more-->

So that wasn’t a good start and it put me off the whole football pie experience for many years. Indeed, I’m fairly sure I’ve not actually eaten a pie inside a football ground since! But as usual I was very much in the minority in this regard. I did have an especially good curried pasty at Boston United once though and a vegetable samosa at Leicester City too. Both highly recommended.

Eating a pie full of thick, viscous gravy and a few pieces of undefined protein while standing on a terrace surrounded by thousands of people is actually a tricky business. The tendency is for pie innards to burst and pour down your arm, giving you third degree burns in the process, rendering your lips numb and blistered, as though you had just witnessed a nuclear explosion at Bikini Atoll. Then the whole thing falls apart and you are compelled to cram the last half of the now fractured miasma into your mouth, all in one go, to prevent losing the whole lot on the ground.

These days a TV camera will inevitably be trained on you as you inhale the bloody thing and you will briefly be the laughing stock of the watching football nation.

But this has not diminished pies’ desirability – quite the opposite.

Go to any ground and you’ll hear the chant ‘Who ate all the pies?’ directed by fans, ironically often on the chubby side themselves, towards a ‘husky’-sized player. It is the only foodstuff to regularly feature in such mantras in any sporting venue, so deeply entrenched has the humble pie become."

We Ate All the Pies is available to buy from the Biteback website priced £9.99

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Failing Intelligence by Brian Jones

  • August 26, 2010 15:25
  • Katy Scholes

FAILING INTELLIGENCE: The true story of how we were fooled into going to war in Iraq by Brian Jones

"Compelling and depressing stuff from the Whitehall expert on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction." Professor Peter Hennessy

This book provides the truth about Iraq’s WMD and how the British government used and misused intelligence to lead us into war, by the UK’s most senior and experienced intelligence expert on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

As the former head of the UK Defence Intelligence Staff's nuclear, biological and chemical section, Brian Jones is ideally placed to explain how Britain was taken to war and the way in which the intelligence reporting on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was manipulated to justify Saddam Hussein's removal from power.

Jones calls on his own experience and knowledge, a variety of leaked documents, and the expert testimony given to a series of inquiries, including the current Chilcot inquiry, to examine how and why Tony Blair and George W. Bush managed to deceive their legislatures and their electorates into believing that Iraqi WMD were a real threat that could attack the West within 45 minutes.

He describes how Blair and Bush sought to use subsequent inquiries to cover up their own culpability in the deception, in order to facilitate re-election and keep their jobs. In conclusion, Jones pulls together the lessons that should have been learned both in relation to the use of intelligence to justify policy-making and with regard to broader international issues of security and governance.

Failing Intelligence is available to buy from the Biteback website priced £9.99

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Why the hell do we love football?

  • August 26, 2010 12:05
  • Katy Scholes

In his regular Football365 column, John Nicholson discusses his new book We Ate All the Pies.

"Football is a major part of millions of people's lives, a part that they simply cannot live without, as compulsive as any addictive narcotic. We buy the shirts, the season tickets, the magazines, the TV subscriptions and of course, the pies. We drink in pubs and watch it on big screens, we meet up and talk about it - talk about it endlessly. We visit websites to find out news, views and to abuse those with whom we disagree on message boards. We take it all for granted as a normal part of our daily lives. But how did we get here?

In We Ate All The Pies I go back through the history of my football life to better understand how football gets under your skin from an early age, buries itself deep and never leaves you; how it helps to create a lifestyle and an attitude for you, how it expands your horizons and helps shape and express the person you are."

You can read the whole column here.

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Biteback, books with teeth – but not real ones – honest!

  • August 25, 2010 10:28
  • Katy Scholes

Biteback Publishing has encountered something of a quandry. We’re soon to begin distributing our books in the US but there’s a problem. Apparently Biteback in the US is synonymous with a notoriously militant animal rights organization, so our friendly distributors across the pond have suggested we use a new customer facing name there.

I decided to do a little snooping to see whether Bite Back US were really all that militant or if we could get away with keeping the name. I found the Bite Back website and was greeted on the front page by a picture of three hooded youths in balaclavas hugging basset hounds and a ferret looking nothing short of p*ssed off.

Hello. Pleased to meet you. Dialogue, call us Dialogue (in the States that is).

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Brought to Book: John Nicholson

  • August 24, 2010 10:36
  • Katy Scholes

Gonzo sports journalist and author of We Ate All the Pies, John Nicholson gets Brought to Book.

What is your favourite book?

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. I've loved this since I was 15 and re-read it every year. It's a stunning evocation of a truly insane period in American counter-culture which revolved around the likes of Kerouac, The Grateful Dead, Ken Kesey and many, many more unhinged originals. As a lover of both beat poetry and psychedelic rock music from an early age, this book always plugged right into my cultural DNA. It reads like one big trip but is broadly a true account of the Merry Pranksters - a drugged-up, freaked-out bunch of lunatics who travelled around California and beyond in the mid 60s in a psychdelic school bus with 'Furthur' on the destination plate - mispelt on purpose to better express goping 'beyond'. Wolfe's style is as colourful as the acid visions and the real-life characters such as Neal Cassidy, larger than life. I find it totally life affirming and also now quaintly nostalgic.

As a child, what was your favourite book?

Like all my generation I was brought up on Enid Bylton, which I always enjoyed but the first book I really fell properly in love with was Alice In Wonderland. Wonderland was a place I definitely wanted to go to and preferably live in with a hookah smoking caterpillar. Oddly though, as much as I loved it, I never took to Alice - are you even meant to? She was the boring one to me. The Mad Hatter was more my kinda dude.<!--more-->

What book would you take on holiday this year?

If I was lucky enough to get time off I'd take The Ivory Coast by Charles Fleming. It's a rollicking, seedy tale of a black musician in Las Vegas in the 1950s which Dawn, my partner, highly recommends as a fellow lover of that guady desert paradise. Vegas is one of my favourite places for all manner of reasons and the history of it fascinates me, so I'd like to read that pool-side at the Bellagio while consuming a Marguerita the size of my head. If I had someone to carry my bags I'd also take a huge volume called The Outlaw Book Of American Poetry to dip into whenever I needed a hit of some free-form verse about bodily functions and sex. Which is quite often.

Do you have a favourite political book/biography?

My favourite broadly political book is P. J .O'Rourke's Give War A Chance along with his brilliant Parliament of Whores. Whether you agree with P.J. or not there's a fierce wit and intelligence behind all his writing which either articulates your own thoughts more succinctly or shows you a whole new angle. I don't read a lot of political biography but one I really enjoyed is Peter Slowe's book about Labour Big Beast Manny Shinwell who was about as far away from the careerist politician we have today as is possible to imagine.

Which book published in the last ten years do you think is the most significant?

The Da Vinci Code because it illustrated just how mindlessly gullible people can be and for showing that being a rubbish writer is no impediment to commerical success. Which is just as well for me, really.

Which literary character would you most like to be?

Raoul Duke in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Never been on an ether binge, but have always fancied it, especially out in the Mojave Desert. If not him then certainly Sterne's Tristam Shandy, who I'm guessing, had he worked for Rolling Stone in the early 70s would have lived like The Good Doctor.

What is your favourite sporting book?

Big Mal; The High Life And Hard Times Of Malcom Allison Football Legend by David Tossell. Can you imagine a manager wearing a Fedora and smoking a cigar in the dug out today? We have big money in football today but too many small men. You can smell the Brut and the champagne on every page of this biography.

We Ate All the Pies is available to buy from the Biteback website, priced £9.99. John Nicholson is a regular contributor to www.football365.com

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